Boncore: No more warnings

COVID spike dominates Council meeting

Around 28 members of the public attended the virtual meeting of Town Council on Dec. 15 where the latest COVID surge was the dominant theme of the night.

As of the date of the meeting, Winthrop had a total of 1,109 total positive cases, with 27 deceased and 196 in isolation. There were 269 new cases in the month of November, but 300 in just the first two weeks of December.

“We’re not doing great,” said Council President Phil Boncore. “We have got to keep up the vigilance.”

The state is currently under a mask mandate both indoors and outdoors, and the council president said he would urge the police to step up enforcement.

“No more warnings,” said Pres. Boncore. “If you’re not wearing your mask, you’re going to get a ticket.”

Town Manager Austin Faison urged residents to stay with their households during the coming celebrations, citing that the surges since May have followed holidays. As always, he encouraged personal responsibility.

“It’s not worth the police’s time to be enforcing the mask order,” he said.

Faison added that the money the town has depended on from the CARES Act expires at the end of the month. The additional funds have been used for staffing the Emergency Operations Center, empowering municipal staff to work remotely, and stepping up law enforcement.

“We don’t have that resource anymore,” he said. “Things may become trickier starting in January.”

COVID testing will be extended past the end of the month, but will be moved indoors and available by appointment only.

While vaccines are currently being administered, the general public won’t have access to them until late spring or early summer. Vaccines will be prioritized to the most vulnerable, such as those in residential facilities, before being administered to essential workers.

The schools are still on track to open on Jan. 4, with special needs students receiving services as early as Dec. 18.

Councilor Robert Demarco asked the town manager for instructions about how the council can transition to in-person meetings.

“If it’s safe for kids to be in class, then it should be time to meet in person,” said DeMarco. “There must be some physical presence.”

Earlier in the evening, Faison said that “education, business and the economy all take a back seat to COVID,” so it’s possible that enabling council to reconvene in person is not high on his priority list.

The matter was referred to the Public Safety Committee.

Several communities in the region announced that they were rolling back their reopening to Phase 2 Step 2. Winthrop was initially reported to be one of those communities, but the Winthrop Board of Health voted against the rollback during an emergency meeting on Tuesday. The rollback would have closed gyms, indoor event spaces, indoor recreational centers, historical locations and other industries.

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